• Drink. Guests love to unwind with a luscious cocktail, and martinis are a classic choice. Not everyone will choose to imbibe, however, so be a thoughtful host and offer a selection of non-alcoholic drinks, such as mineral water, soda, and punches, for those who choose not to drink. Estimate about one cocktail per hour per guest.
• Eats. Go easy on yourself and prepare whatever appetizers you can a day early. Purchase veggie and cheese trays at your local supermarket to save time. Cheese fondues, with plenty of vegetables and bread for dipping, make great retro snacks. Dips and pates served with crackers are a breeze to set up. For a modern-day barbecue, do some quick grilling with pre-marinated shrimp kebabs, corn on the cob, or barbecue chicken. Put some thought into food presentation. Drape a brightly colored tablecloth on the buffet table. Place appetizers and snacks on decorative trays and plates and in colorful bowls. Flowers are always a nice touch.
• Music. Set the mood with good music. Cool Jazz, bossa nova, lounge music, and crooners like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Michael Bublé are nice choices for retro theme parties, but you may also want to program your CD player or iPod for a variety and mixture of themes, artists, and tempos. Keep it fun.
• Chatter. Organize 'zones' for conversation by placing groups of chairs and small tables around different parts of your backyard. Things will get shifted as guests begin to mingle, but it's important for people to have a place to set down drinks and plates while they chat.
Need some smart, new ideas to help pull together the ultimate summer soiree?
CA-Modern has found some cool products and accessories that are sure to tie it all together.
1. Mighty Weber: Become an iron chef with the Weber Genesis S-320 gas grill. Features three stainless steel burners, 42,000 BTU-per-hour output, side burner, stainless steel cooking grates, and stainless steel exterior. $749. weber.com/bbq
2. BBQ-tottin' tools: Lock and load your barbecue tools with the Grillslinger Barbecue Tool Kit. Buckled belt has three washable inserts that hold the grill knife, tongs, and spatula. Comes with recipes and a mesh carry bag. $99.95. surlatable.com
3. Neat teak seats: These contemporary teak furnishings by Maku, based in Carlsbad, California, are manufactured using sustainable plantation wood, and a percentage of sales go toward helping the environment. Dining chair: $579. makufurniture.com
4. Snazzy glassware: The distinctive patterns on these glasses from the Museum of Modern Art in New York help your guests remember which glass is theirs. Set of six: $98. momastore.org
5. All-in-one utensil: Don't rely on flimsy plastic knives to cut your barbecued meats. The Knork is a fork, knife, and conversation starter all in one! It's like a traditional fork, but has beveled, rounded edges that work as a knife by using a rocking motion. Set of four: $2. knork.net
6. Multi-hued bowls: These colorful lacquered bowls are handmade from eco-friendly bamboo. Works for hot and cold foods. Set of four: $55. momastore.org
7. Blue eyes croonin': Together, the albums 'Classic Sinatra' and 'Sinatra Reprise' offer 40 of Frank Sinatra's timeless tunes that span the popular singer's career, including 'I Get a Kick out of You,' 'Witchcraft,' 'That's Life,' and 'Summer Wind.' $9.99. amazon.com
8. Game of queries: Loosen up with a little self-disclosure. The 'Loaded Questions' game tests how well you know your friends by asking random questions, such as: "If you were invisible, where would you go?" and "If you could be a member of any TV-sitcom family, which one would you choose?" $22.49. amazon.com